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three flash fictions by Elle Enderlin
A Good Feeling
I can’t stop thinking about refrigerators.
Things you don’t think about until they die: squirrels in the attic, ex-lovers, refrigerators.
Mine died on a Wednesday in April (the refrigerator, not the ex-lover). Had it been the only complication in my life at that moment, I might have coped better.
Things that can trigger a descent into depressive obsession: drought, a teenager’s prolonged rage, recession, a dead refrigerator.
Dear reader, I don’t know where this one goes. To be perfectly forthcoming, I don’t have a good feeling about it.
Before the refrigerator died, I had no idea there was such a thing as a Flex Zone. The Flex Zone is a special drawer, located between the refrigerator and the freezer, that you can adjust to fit your refrigeration needs: 42 degrees for wine and party dishes, 37 degrees for deli snacks, 33 degrees for cold drinks, 29 degrees for meat and fish.
I wanted to be the kind of person who kept the Flex Zone at 42, although in my heart of hearts I knew I lived a 33 – 37-degree life.
Who keeps the meat and fish at 29 degrees? People who plan on using it later the same day. Or perhaps tomorrow. People who visit the butcher counter and know what to ask for. I am not these people. Don’t even get me started on the fishmonger. I hear there is a place to by fish out by the bay near Coyote Point, but I have never been there. Sometimes the stay-at-home moms of my neighborhood, women who were once CEOs and high-powered lawyers and who now turn their vast attentions and capabilities to fitness, home remodeling, and cookery, go to the fish place to buy fresh oysters and scallops to put on the grill or on the stove or wherever it is they put it, to make Michelin-caliber meals for their children who attend $50,000-per-year middle schools and their husbands who make the cost of tuition in a month or less. I don’t go to the fish place. I am just trying to get by, a middle-middle class mom in an upper middle class world.
Later fridge models would include a fifth setting: -7 degrees. For things that could kill you otherwise. Or for ice cream.
But we are getting ahead of ourselves.
A Matter of Degrees
Really, it was only the freezer that died. The refrigerator remained at a constant coolish temperature. The milk remained drinkable. The cheese did not sweat. The sauvignon blanc, thank God: refreshing as it ever was.
How crisp, I thought, swirling it around in my mouth. How medicating, I thought, as it slid down my throat.
The freezer came to our attention because we took out the ice cream to make ice cream cones as a last-ditch effort to save the day but had to make milkshakes instead. It sounds like we are talking about summer, but it was technically spring, the coldest May on record. So this was not a case of the freezer struggling valiantly against a heat wave. I am telling you this so you do not assign blame to the weather. I am telling you this because it is all about the appliance.
Making the milkshakes on this day did not require a blender, or even milk. The ice cream had turned to soup. All we had to do was stir it with a spoon.
It made for an exceptional milkshake, but we worried about the fundamentals.
I touched the Red Barron pizza box. It was soft.
I touched the bag of potstickers. They were firm, but not as firm as usual.
I lifted the bag of broccoli florets from the freezer bin and placed it against my forehead, as if I had a headache (I had indeed had a headache for going on four years). It cooled but did not soothe. When I removed the bag, the skin of my forehead was damp and chill to the touch, like a sickly person.
I touched the chicken breast, peachy brown in its thick plastic wrapper. It was frozen solid. I felt a wild surge of relief. There was that time, not so long ago, when we lost all the meat—to a failure of refrigeration that was not the refrigerator’s fault. I had forgotten to pay the electrical bill. The house shut down like a heart.
On the day the freezer died, I began to categorize food by how hard it stayed during the unfreezing. Why did chicken breast maintain its frozen state, while other items slowly thawed and softened? Why did the ice cream thaw faster than anything else?
One might say the house never recovered. Where is the pacemaker when you need it, a pacemaker of mythical proportions with metaphysical capabilities?
Elle Enderlin lives and writes in the Pacific Northwest. Her work has previously appeared in Fiction Attic. You can read it here.
Fiction Attic Press publishes flash fiction, flash memoir, short stories, and serial novellas-in-flash by new and established writers. Go here to submit your work.